Residents across south-west Western Australia reacted angrily to a state government admission that unconventional gas exploration and mining could still go ahead despite an election promise to ban fracking in the state.
In response to a question from Greens MLC Diane Evers, WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said in parliament on May 24 the fracking bans would not stop exploration for unconventional gas. “The government’s policy is a ban on hydraulic fracture stimulation in the south west, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions, not a ban on exploration for future gas supplies for the Western Australian community.”
He said unconventional gas mining using methods other than fracking, including “geophysical and geological surveys, conventional drilling and data analysis”, could still go ahead despite the bans.
But why would the government allow unconventional gas exploration in an area where fracking is banned? It could lead to the bizarre situation of allowing companies to look for unconventional gas resources, which will require fracking to be commercially viable, in an area where fracking is banned.
Spokesperson for Gasfield Free South West Alliance Carly Stone said limiting the ban to “hydraulic fracturing” and excluding the other damaging activities associated with unconventional gas mining won’t protect the regions in the south-west, Peel and Perth metropolitan from unconventional gas.
“It looks like the promise of fracking bans is being watered down before it has even been brought into effect,” she said.
“We are deeply disappointed and disillusioned by the narrow definition being used by the government, which means our region could be under threat from other practices associated with unconventional gas, like horizontal drilling.”
The minister’s statement shocked many people in the region who had voted Labor because of its promise to protect the region from gas mining.
Stone said: “The actual act of ‘hydraulic fracturing’ for unconventional gas is just one part of a process from exploration to mining and development that can cause health, water and land use issues.
“The community needs the Labor Government to put an end to the threat that the risky and unnecessary unconventional gas industry poses to tourism, health, land, water, and farming in our region.
“We call on the government to deliver what the community expected and ban all unconventional gas exploration and mining across the South West and other regions.”